Containment with Contentment


http://www.deccanheraldepaper.com/

We are living in strange times. The pace at which the world is functioning appears like a reminder of a train chugging into the railway station ever so slowly before coming to a grinding halt. A microscopic virus is monitoring all that is happening and not happening on this planet. All channels of knowledge are being tapped into for finding possible panacea from this baffling situation.

When one looks for a possible interpretation of the crisis in our mythology, the Dasha Mahavidyaha offers one. The text extols one of the forms and worship of Adi Para Shakthi as Goddess Bagalamukhi. The etymological interpretation of the name suggests that it is synonymous with that of a horse’s bridle, which means that she reins in her strength to arrest the movement of the universe.

At, the first instance, one is likely to wonder, what kind of a super power could be worshipped for creating obstacles in one’s path. However, a little reflection will reveal that each one of us lead an unleashed life, running a rat race with blinders on as if there is no tomorrow. As a result we have strayed from our home grounds, values, connect with nature and eventually even forgotten to keep in touch with ourselves.

The Shakthi cult says that it is at such times Baghalamukhi, manifests herself as an obstacle to rein in the erring souls. Mythology describes her as the crane (representative of wisdom) faced deity tearing at the tongue of the Asura at her feet. The tongue, the seat of the six taste buds, symbolizes the origin of Arishadvargam. Interestingly, the six sins namely, lust, anger, greed, infatuation, arrogance and jealousy which cause our downfall, originate from the tongue.

Right now, various aspects of human life and living are being led into a hitherto unknown phase, where all action has been arrested by an invisible virus. The only way out of this phase is to accept containment and use it for reflection, introspection and speculation on the essence of existence. When mankind identifies its flaws, unlearns them and relearns universal values like truth and compassion, he will automatically become wiser and responsible. A dose of diligence and discipline will usher in self restraint and contentment.  This in turn will reflect in his actions which will repair the damages made by him and heal the world holistically.

 

Self Confidence Vs Overconfidence


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Confidence can be a powerful virtue and a true friend during times of doubt or crisis. Heroes have overcome obstacles and disasters by the sheer strength of self-reliance. Some admittedly great men who chose to be arrogant paved way for their downfall and defeat.

The Ramayana shows the contrast between the two sides of this wonderful quality through the character of the king of Lanka. Ravana was a staunch devotee of lord Shiva. He wanted to spend all his time in the company of the lord. His royal duties and ambitions came in the way of his deep desire. Therefore he decided to take a middle path that would allow him to have the best of both the worlds. Accordingly, he performed a vigorous penance. When Shiva manifested himself in front of him, he expressed his prayer. Shiva was amused by the naiveté of his devotee who seemed to take him for granted. All the same Shiva did not want to disappoint Ravana. Hence Ravana was given an Atma-Lingam which housed the Soul of Shiva. Even as the king of Lanka reveled at his blessings, and was ready to leave for Lanka, Lord Shiva cautioned him to be careful about handling the Atma Lingam. The lord said that, if the Atma-Lingam was ever placed on the ground during the transit, it would be rooted to the spot. When one observes this clause closely, it will not be difficult to see that Ravana was being tested on two counts – his devotion and determination. Ravana accepted the condition without any hesitation for he saw no threat to breach the stipulation. He proceeded towards Lanka in wind speed.

The gods became apprehensive about the potential power of the already potent king. Ganesha was commissioned to intervene and abort his venture. The elephant god manifested himself as a Brahmin boy and offered to be Ravana’s assistant and hold the Linga while the king completed his ablutions. When Ravana was doing his job, Vinayaka tarried a while, called out to the king and then placed the idol on the ground and vanished. The angered devotee had to garner all his demoniac strength to break off a portion of the Atma Lingam.

If only Ravana had substituted self confidence instead of over confidence he would have been able to retain his hard earned blessings and remained indomitable with all his wonderful talents and qualities.

The Solitary Reapers


https://www.deccanherald.com/opinion/right-in-the-middle/the-solitary-reapers-814761.html

A couple of years ago a small house was rented out in our locale to two women. Within a matter of two weeks, eleven women started living on the premises. The ladies belonged to different age groups, religions and sects. They seemed to be from a neighbouring state. They did not look well off. That explained why they had decided to share one home. The neighbourhood was not exactly pleased with the idea of having such a large population of women amidst their midst. Everyone was on the vigil. After all one needed a concrete evidence to evacuate them from their rented property. However it appeared as if the women were way too decent and busy to take cognizance of the resentment that enveloped them.

There was a total absence of the much expected clamour, chaos and criminal mindset among the ladies. A month passed by. Whenever a maid availed leave, a desperate homemaker would rope in one of the ladies to help her out with her chores. Slowly but surely each one of the women was absorbed as a domestic helper.

They blended seamlessly as indispensable hands in almost every household. Their hardworking and non interfering nature made many of us curious to know more about them. Nevertheless they maintained a stiff upper lip contrary to their tribe.

When we celebrated a festival at our home, we invited the women to offer them the traditional Haldi Kumkum. The women seemed to be taken aback. One of the younger women called me aside and said, “Akka, do not offer us the Haldi Kumkum.” She thumbed out the sacred yellow thread from her blouse furtively and whispered, “All of us are either widows or abandoned women. The yellow thread each one of us wears does what our drunkard husbands did not do; — it protects us from the probing eyes of wicked men. We have come here to work and earn for the upkeep of our families back home. We do not expect anything else. ”

She walked back to her friends who were ready to leave. They reminded me of Wordsworth’s Solitary Reaper. Almost immediately, similar sentimental words from a famous Hindi song came drifted past. “Na main sapna hoon ya koi raaz hoon ek dard bhari awaaz hoon.” ( I am neither a dream nor a secret but a voice filled with melancholy).

I realised that these were worldly wise and independent women who had fenced themselves off intelligently and effectively. I appreciated the way they camouflaged their despair and forged ahead in life and invited them again with renewed fervour.

 

Exploitation will lead to Extinction


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The Koorma Purana chronicles a period when our country was deprived of rainfall for fifteen long years. As a result; our parched land became the face of death. Flora and fauna perished. Human race had even given up the process of disposing their dead, leaving piles of corpses rotting away. Kings and sages were flummoxed out of their wits. Amidst all this chaos and catastrophe, there existed an oasis of peace and prosperity. The wise men of the age conducted the survivors from all strata of society and arrived at the doorstep of sage Gautama. The Good Samaritan welcomed them warmly. He stretched out his resources to feed and clothe the few thousands who had descended on the Ashram. He prayed for some divine intervention to help him keep his refugees comfortable. Goddess Gayathri   manifested herself in front of her magnanimous devotee and presented him with a Kamandalu   (a water jug with a handle and spout) that was capable of providing the famished hordes their requirements. The distraught refugees who were replenished with their essentials celebrated their host’s hospitality. Although everyone was satiated, jealousy raised her ugly head in the minds of the sages who considered themselves as peers of Gautama Rishi. The envious lot got together and led a cow which was merely skin and bones to the altar of Gautama’s Yajna. The compassionate Gautama got up to lead the bovine to some water. Even as he touched the animal’s face, she collapsed and fell dead. The sages who were waiting to pin the grotesque sin of killing a cow on sage Gautama lost no time to censure him and lead him on a guilt trip. When Gautama recovered from the shock, he was able to see through the devious plot. He declared that it was shameful for the accursed to claim Vedic knowledge when they did not know the basic values of life like truth and compassion.

It is apparent that the drought was a result of mindless living which took toll of the balance in nature. When the victims were provided unconditional support despite their folly, they responded with heartless ingratitude. It is no wonder they were ostracized for their knowledge for it served them no purpose. If we pursue the path of exploitation of fellow living beings and the environment around us we cannot hope to escape extinction.

Quest for Perfect Happiness


Published in today’s Deccan Herald

The quest for perfect happiness is as old as mankind itself. It is interesting to note that an ancient text like the Bhagavata   Purana offers a formula to arrive at the solution through the story of Puranjana narrated by sage Narada to king Prachinabarhi. The young, handsome and energetic hero of the tale ventures out in search glory, riches and happiness. He comes across a wonderful land with nine gates punctuated with splendour and class. Puranjana is enticed into this magical territory. There he finds an extremely beautiful woman guarded by a serpent with five hoods, ten body guards and one thousand aides. Puranjana is besotted by the damsel, marries her with her consent a decadent life in the Golden City. One day he set out for hunting on his chariot drawn by five horses. He is attacked, tormented  and struck dead.

Since his thoughts revolved around his lovely wife, in his dying moments, he is reborn as a woman. In his next cycle of life he leads the life of a chaste wife and is eventually widowed. It is only at the end of that life, he is enlightened with the truth.

Narada reveals that the story of Puranjana happens to be a metaphor. The word Pura refers to the human body likened to a striking city full of life. The nine gates refer to the openings in the body which help it to learn, entertain and cleanse itself. The various embellishments of the place actually refer to the clothes accessories, attitude, behaviour and parts of the body. The wondrous woman happens to be the human mind which is guarded by the hissing Pancha Pranas and the sense organs and their faculties. When man feels compelled to hunt for greater pleasures, he is led by the senses which are represented by the five horses harnessed to his chariot. He eventually loses his life.

In the next birth he is endowed with some fine qualities of womanhood like loyalty, sacrifice and infinite affection which complements his personality and endows his being a sense of wholesomeness.

The story of Puranjana is a metaphor used to put across that when man allows his mind to rule over him instead of controlling his senses he ends up being its slave. This weakness makes him stray. He loses touch with himself and begins to live in a fool’s paradise. When he does wake up from the reverie, it might be too late for him to pursue genuine happiness.

QUEST FOR PERFECT HAPPINESS

By S. RADHA PRATHI

The quest for perfect happiness is as old as mankind itself. It is interesting to note that an ancient text like the Bhagavata   Purana offers a formula to arrive at the solution through the story of Puranjana narrated by sage Narada to king Prachinabarhi. The young, handsome and energetic hero of the tale ventures out in search glory, riches and happiness. He comes across a wonderful land with nine gates punctuated with splendour and class. Puranjana is enticed into this magical territory. There he finds an extremely beautiful woman guarded by a serpent with five hoods, ten body guards and one thousand aides. Puranjana is besotted by the damsel, marries her with her consent a decadent life in the Golden City. One day he set out for hunting on his chariot drawn by five horses. He is attacked, tormented  and struck dead.

Since his thoughts revolved around his lovely wife, in his dying moments, he is reborn as a woman. In his next cycle of life he leads the life of a chaste wife and is eventually widowed. It is only at the end of that life, he is enlightened with the truth.

Narada reveals that the story of Puranjana happens to be a metaphor. The word Pura refers to the human body likened to a striking city full of life. The nine gates refer to the openings in the body which help it to learn, entertain and cleanse itself. The various embellishments of the place actually refer to the clothes accessories, attitude, behaviour and parts of the body. The wondrous woman happens to be the human mind which is guarded by the hissing Pancha Pranas and the sense organs and their faculties. When man feels compelled to hunt for greater pleasures, he is led by the senses which are represented by the five horses harnessed to his chariot. He eventually loses his life.

In the next birth he is endowed with some fine qualities of womanhood like loyalty, sacrifice and infinite affection which complements his personality and endows his being a sense of wholesomeness.

The story of Puranjana is a metaphor used to put across that when man allows his mind to rule over him instead of controlling his senses he ends up being its slave. This weakness makes him stray. He loses touch with himself and begins to live in a fool’s paradise. When he does wake up from the reverie, it might be too late for him to pursue genuine happiness.

Golden Memories


http://www.teacherplus.org/golden-memories/

Sri Vidya Mandir turned 50 last year and this gave an opportunity for all those associated with the school to share their memories.

Housed in the heart of Malleswaram, the school has separate blocks for the primary section, middle school, and the high school and pre university sections, all located close to each other.

It is hard to believe that what started as a little school with three students, two teachers and a headmistress in a humble home now has more than 3000 students under its wings.

The story of Sri Vidya Mandir is inseparable from the woman who founded it. Leelavathi N, who started her career as a teacher in Madras, fell in love with the profession irreversibly. Marriage brought her to Bangalore and she pursued teaching in a local school. Her keen sense of value education coupled with an inherent love for children made her wonder if she could make a palpable difference in the field of education. The idea of running a school crossed her mind and started to take wings in 1969. Once the spade work was done, she associated with a couple of like-minded parents and formed an Education Society in 1970 and started a school with just three students.

“Making quality education available at affordable costs has been my guiding quotient from day one,” says Leelavathi better known as “Leela miss”. “While I have insisted on discipline, performance and accountability from my students, I have never turned a student away because he/she has not paid the fees,” says the octogenarian.

A couple of years later, owing to the growing numbers of students, Sri Vidya Mandir moved to a makeshift building – a cowshed, opposite the Venugopala Swamy temple in Malleswaram was leased to run the school. While this change gave Leela miss and her students more space, it also brought with it many obstacles and nagging problems. The temple authorities were divided on allowing the school to function in their premises. The dissenting members resorted to unpleasant measures to dislodge the growing institution. An individual with a weaker spirit would have succumbed to the pressure and threats but Leela miss decided to launch a legal battle to retain the space that had been leased out to her formally and legally. It is ironical to note that the lady who had never dreamt of anything except disseminating knowledge was constantly drawn into courtrooms to justify her decision to continue functioning in the new site despite obtaining permission from the concerned authorities. The long-drawn, ugly courtroom battle which went all the way to the Supreme Court, only strengthened Leela miss’ resolve to pursue her original dream of running a model school where she could mould young children into intelligent, responsible and productive citizens.

The school management, her loyal team of teachers and parents who had reposed their faith in her mission stood by her through her toughest moments. Eventually, her decision to fight for the school space proved to be the right one as Leela miss won her battle and became completely free to serve the society by providing quality education.

Once this major obstacle was overcome, there was no looking back. Though the school follows the state syllabus, the teachers ensure that the students have access to different kinds of resources to further their knowledge and are not limited just to the textbook. Chandrika Gowda, headmistress middle school, who has been with Sri Vidya Mandir for four and half decades, has been part of the school’s eventful journey as a well-loved and inspirational teacher. She says, “I do not allow my busy administrative schedule to come in the way of my classes. In fact, I try to conduct as many classes as possible because teaching opens up so many perceptions for both the teacher and the students.”

The school takes pride in creating exclusive workbooks for their kindergarten students every academic year, which lays a sound foundation for the learning years ahead of them. This exercise holds a mirror to the fact that the teaching faculty is willing to unlearn and relearn to upgrade their skills and help the children learn better.

Leela miss, with her able team has surged forth, rejuvenated, to add more feathers to the already established academic hat. Students of Sri Vidya Mandir enjoy equal time to study, play sports and participate in extracurricular activities. Gifted students are encouraged to pursue their talents and are given proper guidance and environment to do so. The students in turn bring their school more laurels individually and collectively.

The year 2000 was particularly special for the school when it presented a cultural program involving hundreds of their students on the occasion of Karnataka Rajyothsava or Karnataka formation day. The students had to practice separately at different venues due to space constraints before performing together on the prestigious occasion. All the pain taken was forgotten when the audience asked for an encore. The students’ performance was such a hit that they performed it on two more occasions on different stages.

This episode is a pointer towards the dedication reflected by the Kempegowda awardee (civilian award given by the Karnataka government) Leela miss and her teachers in whatever they do. The fact that the teaching and non-teaching staff of the school has several decades of service in the institution and have been awarded by both government and non-government bodies speaks for itself.

Sri Vidya Mandir has faced challenges and overcome obstacles to become the school it is today. Despite its success, Leela miss says, “We are happy and grateful to have come thus far but we can achieve more.”

The author is a professor of English and Sanskrit at Jain University, Bangalore. She also freelances for the print media, is a radio artist and writes scripts for television shows. She is also a proud student of Sri Vidya Mandir. She can be reached at prathi2000@rediffmail.com.

How do I Love Thee?


https://storymirror.com/read/story/english/6197erli/how-do-i-love-thee/detail

How do I love Thee? Let me count the ways.       

I have always wondered why a poetess like Elizabeth Browning would begin a romantic sonnet with the lines “How do I love Thee? Let me count the ways.” Now I understand the emotion that underlines her seemingly mundane lines when I am trapped in a similar situation.

Recently I was asked to write about my experiences as a student at my school which will be turning fifty this year. I found myself fumbling for words even as I tried to encapsulate what Sri Vidya Mandir (That is the name of my school) means to me. When I first stepped into a sprawling house which was used as a school in the heart of verdant Malleswaram, in Namma Bengaluru, little did I know that it would become an integral part of my person and persona? I felt completely at home (pun intended) because we were just eight students in our batch and our teachers knew us like the palms of their hands.

There was never a dull moment at school, as we were constantly engaged in academics and extracurricular activities. The five years that I studied in this haloed place had a far reaching impact on my life. I don’t remember evaluating options when it came to deciding my primary career, it had to be teaching. My passion for languages, literature, social sciences, and the arts is nothing but the harvest of the seeds sown by my teachers out there. Perhaps that explains why I am still in touch with the teachers who inspired me. I met my friends for life on this campus. The list can go on.

 Despite being the recipient of such rich bounties that populate my life to this day, I do have a pet peeve. Exactly two years after I left school to pursue high school education elsewhere, my alma mater decided to launch its High School wing. I will always be left wondering about how my life could have been further upgraded if I had spent three more years under its wings.

Today, when the school is stepping into its golden jubilee year, I realise that tens and thousands of students must have emerged as fully-fledged, responsible individuals from this mother ship. The mere thought of it is enough to set me off on new innings of pride, gratitude, humility, and inspiration. Long live SVM!